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Drilling company wants to withdraw 1.5 million gallons of water daily from Big Sewickley Creek

Drilling company wants to withdraw water from Big Sewickley Creek
Drilling company wants to withdraw water from Big Sewickley Creek 02:33

BEAVER COUNTY, Pa. (KDKA) — Some local fishermen are speaking out against a drilling company's request to take more than a million gallons of water a day from Big Sewickley Creek.

Anywhere along Big Sewickley Creek is likely a good spot to cast a line or enjoy nature, but there are fears that could change.

PennEnergy Resources wants to withdraw 1.5 million gallons of water per day from the trout-stocked creek in Economy Borough to use for fracking operations. The creek runs through several municipalities in Beaver, Allegheny and Butler counties.

"If you want the fish to stay alive, it doesn't matter what kind of fish, they need to eat food all year. You have macroinvertebrates that depend on being underwater. Once that's taken away, then the fish will starve to death," said Bob Schmetzer, an avid trout fisherman and environmentalist.

Schmetzer isn't just worried about the fish, he's also concerned about the wildlife.

"The deer come down out of the woods and get a drink. ... If this creek dries up, where are they going to get their water?" he said.

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Big Sewickley Creek is a favorite for people in Beaver County. (Photo Credit: KDKA)

Big Sewickley Creek Watershed Association has been fighting the proposed plan and has asked the Department of Environmental Protection to turn down the drilling company's applications. BSCWA said one of the biggest concerns is that the creek is often very low, and it believes large water withdrawals could permanently impact the habitat.

"Pennsylvania is a commonwealth and all of the streams in Pennsylvania belong to the common people, not any one property owner or one company or any one municipality," Schmetzer said.

The creek is also home to a threatened species.

"It's called the southern redbelly dace. It's on the federal protective list, and it's an unusual fish that would be killed off if this creek dried up," he said.

Schmetzer hopes the creek will never dry up so he can keep reeling in fish, and the local habitat stays protected.

"There's more than just fish involved here. There's all the wildlife, and there are people who have springs who get their drinking water nearby this creek," said Schmetzer.

The DEP said its reviewing PennEnergy Resource's applications for the proposed water withdrawals, intake structure, and temporary waterline.

On May 17, the DEP issued a deficiency notice on the submitted water management plan. PennEnergy Resources asked for an extension, and its response to the water management plan is now due July 16.

On June 1, the DEP said the applicant submitted a response to a deficiency notice on the joint permit application issued by the DEP, which accepted this information and the application as administratively complete and will commence its technical review.  

EMERGENCY COMPONENT - LOCAL

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